How had Cork lost so heavily, or, more accurately, how had Clare engineered their stirring win?
Cork selector Kieran Kingston was frank after the game, saying there were few positives to take from a tie in which Clare had overrun the home side.
“It’s hard to explain, we were six points up and cruising, and to go nine points down . . . it was unreal. We couldn’t see it coming. A 15-point turnaround at home, that’s not good enough.
“When we were six up we had goal chances and could have put the game away. We didn’t and that gave Clare great impetus, and in the last 20 minutes they overran us.
“We just didn’t compete. We got four points in the second-half and a consolation goal. We were very flat.”
Understandably, the Clare back room staff were ebullient. Selector Mike Deegan said: “We’d spoken during the week about our game plan but the lads didn’t seem tuned in during the first-half. We got refocused at half-time and there was a big improvement in the second half. We were lucky to be that close to Cork (at half-time) but we really picked it up. I don’t think Cork would be happy with that second-half – they seemed to die off when we got ahead. I wouldn’t be reading too much into that performance from Cork, it wasn’t their best, but we’ll worry about our performance.”
Cork dominated the first-half with Lorcan McLoughlin driving them on and Patrick Horgan unerring from frees, though Stephen Moylan’s goal chance — saved well by Patrick Kelly in the Clare goal — was a significant moment, as a green flag then would surely have energised the home side. Both sides were wasteful, hitting nine wides each, and having played with the wind Cork should have been further ahead than 0-12 to 0-7 at the interval.
In the second-half Clare were better — Patrick Donnellan and Brendan Bugler gave them a platform, Conor Ryan and Tony Kelly came into it around the middle — but with 20 minutes remaining Cork were still two up (0-15 to 0-13).
Then Clare took over totally, streaming forward in numbers for a succession of points from the likes of Kelly and John Conlan before Shane O’Donnell’s 64th minute goal. By then they led by nine — a 15-point swing. Cork’s consolation goal, from sub Luke O’Farrell, came deep in injury time. Plenty for the Clare support to talk about, then. For the home side plenty to consider as well.
“When they got the confidence and smelled victory they went for it,” said Kingston. “We have to go back to the drawing board to see where we are. We’ll need points from the Kilkenny and Galway games now, I’d say, but tonight . . . I thought the full-back line was consistent but we were beaten in most aspects of our game. That display, particularly the second-half, was way off the mark. We’re better than that but for the last 20 minutes we seemed flat for some reason.”
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan 0-12 (0-9fs), T Kelly 0-4, S O’Donnell 1-0, J Conlon 0-2, P O’Connor, Conor Ryan, N O’Connell and D Honan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 0-9 (0-8fs), L O’Farrell 1-0, S Harnedy, L McLoughlin and P O’Sullivan 0-2 each, D Kearney 0-1.
Clare: P Kelly; D O'Donovan, D McInerney, S Morey; B Bugler, P Donnellan, P O'Connor; N O'Connell, Conor Ryan; E Barrett, T Kelly, Colin Ryan; S O'Donnell, J Conlan, P Collins.
Subs for Clare: F Lynch for E Barrett (38), C Galvin for P Collins (49), C McInerney for Conor Ryan (61), D Honan for S O’Donnell (67).
A Nash; S O'Neill, B Murphy, C O'Sullivan; C Joyce, P Cronin, W Egan; D Kearney, L McLoughlin; C McCarthy, P O'Sullivan, S Harnedy; S Moylan, P O'Brien, P Horgan.
Subs for Cork: C Lehane for S Moylan (50), L O’Farrell for P O’Brien (56), T Kenny for D Kearney (59), C Naughton for S Harnedy (60).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).